From the Couch to Conditioning

Learn how to engage kids and improve their physical literacy during the warm-up.


An article in IDEA Fitness Journal for ACE Certified Professionals by Brett Klika, the 2013 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year & CEO of

Engaging Kids

Odds are, kids don’t have physical education in school and they don’t play much on their own. The last thing they want to do is stand around, get in lines, or listen to lectures. Their bodies and brains demand movement, so get them moving- immediately! You can focus on different aspects of fitness and physical development BUT the primary goal is to get the kids sweating, smiling, and interacting. Make the moves smile enough that very little instruction is needed. Let them play! 

Shark Island:

– Instructor calls out a number.

– Participants form groups of exactly that number and put their arms around one another.

– Instructor (the “shark”) chases participants, hurrying group formations.

– Participants not able to get in groups quickly are “chomped” by the shark.

– Game repeats with large, small, odd, and even numbers.

*can be used to get kids into groups for the duration of class as well.

Partner Tag:

– Participants pair up, facing one another.

– When the whistle blows, students simultaneously attempt to “tag” the arms, legs, and/or torso of their partners without moving around the room. (The challenge is to tag while avoiding being tagged.)

– Each bout lasts about 10 seconds.

– Keeping “score” is optional, as is switching partners.

Physical Literacy

Kids learn how to move as a result of developing a wide array of physical skills. Modern inactivity and early specialization in a single sport have created a deficit in the development of general skills needed for a lifetime. The building blocks of physical literacy include foundational motor abilities, in addition to the fundamental movement skills associated with locomotion, stationary movement control, and object manipulation. So address these during the warm-up to ensure that the kids brain “hooks up” with the rest of his body so he moves more efficiently and effectively.

Exploratory locomotion:

– Participants line up shoulder to shoulder at arms length.

– Cue is to move across an established space using a locomotion strategy of choice (examples: skipping, crawling, etc.)

– One they arrive at the “end” point they must return using a different strategy.

– Game repeats to allow for our different movement strategies.


– Participants gather in a clearly defined area that requires relatively close contact.

– Cue is to lift the arms into “airplane” position.

– On the whistle, participants run, skip, or perform another locomotion strategy around the defined area, arms out.

– Students duck, twist, jump, or anything else necessary to avoid contacting other participants while keeping their arms outstretched.

– Participants who make contact with another are “out” for the rest of that bout.

– Each bout lasts 30-60 seconds.


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